Hu Jintao, China’s soon-to-retire party secretary, delivered the opening address of the week-long Party Congress on Nov. 8 before some 2,300 delegates in the cavernous Great Hall of the People in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. The once-every-five-years political meeting, China’s 18th, will culminate with the unveiling of the country’s next leaders, almost certain to be headed by Xi Jinping, with Li Keqiang in charge of the economy. The ultimate identities and roles of the others, and even the number—seven or nine—who will run China through its membership in the elite Politburo Standing Committee, is still unclear.
Hu’s 90-minute political report summed up China’s past achievements and highlighted challenges ahead, and hit all the expected notes. It also was an obvious attempt to boost his political legacy. Hu said the growing gaps between rich and poor and city and countryside, an excessive reliance on investment rather than individual consumption, and surging environmental problems and wasteful energy use all must be addressed through more balanced development, a guiding philosophy he has coined the “Scientific Outlook on Development.”